ERIC PANKEY'S latest book, Cenotaph, was recently released by Knopf.


Between exile and return,
Between cleft and crag,
A narrow footbridge of smoke,
                      a bolt of silk unfurled.

A white egret, sunk in shade,
Stands as still as a saint in a fresco,
Where the world is arcane and mineral,

Unmoved and unmoving:
A depthless replica, trappings.

To reveal the strata of the senses,
The falconer lifts his gloved hand,
And from between the Book of the Sovereign
And the Book of the Habitable Earth,
                                    a falcon descends.

How it lumbers and stalls mid-air
Before dropping it trove,
Before it perches on the outstretched hand
                                    and is hooded.

The image is the pretext. The afterimage is the text.


Day after day, a renga we work at

A single bee in the maze garden
A paste of grated ginger
A gash of fire

Cumin and cobalt
A script of blossoms and tendrils

A renga we work at, day after day

An axe-head inscribed with a prayer
A sugar cube for the horse
The swirl and marble of cigarette smoke in the projector's light

A whetstone of mica schist
The waning and the warning

We work, day after day, at a renga

As if dyed with spring water
a pestle of cherry wood
The monsoon's jasmine

Before that, or after,
Or so it seemed, at least to me

You write: "A river whose source is paradise"

I write: "The hidden god thus cannot be authenticated by the seen"

You write: "Day after day, I long for a language that outpaces meaning"

There is ink beneath your fingernails. Soot smudged on your cheek.
I lick my finger and try to rub it off.